September 13th

Grandpa Bill and Grandma Susie on their wedding day - May 29th 1976.

Grandpa Bill and Grandma Susie on their wedding day - May 29th 1976.

I met grandpa Bill thirty-six years ago today. It’s a cute story about what can happen when we have few expectations and just be ourselves. I hope that you’ll read on.

I worked at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and on most Fridays, several coworkers and I met at Fort Meyer Officer’s Club after work. This Friday the 13th, I went reluctantly.  It had been a tough work week and I was headed home, but a friend talked me into a quick visit to “the Club” and I relented.

The crescent-moon shaped parking lot was filled with late model sports cars when I arrived. Not all, but many of the young military officers who frequented Fort Meyer drove powerful little vehicles. At the time, government personnel like myself, were allowed onto the “Fort” which housed military serving at Arlington Cemetery. I pulled my Buick Opal (the four-door economy model) into a space and caught up to my friend, Cathy, already walking into the basement music club. We both spied a bicycle locked up to a tree near the entrance, and had a little fun discussing who would come to “the Club” on a pedal bike. We were so cool and mature!

I noticed this cute guy instantly upon entering the place. He stood out because he wasn’t wearing the usual three-piece suit or military uniform like the others. In cords and a plaid shirt, I remember thinking, “There’s a regular-looking guy.” Cathy and I joined friends already seated at a table and, as was the custom, we added more tiny round bar tables and chairs to accommodate new arrivals. I would have totally forgotten about that guy in the cords and plaid shirt, except that he was sitting on the pathway to the restroom, which I traveled to several times that evening. He was alone and looked kind of lonely, so on one trip, I invited him to join our group.

As soon as I opened my mouth to invite him, it occurred to me that he was most likely waiting for someone. To give him an easy out and probably to save my ego, I asked him if he was waiting for a friend? I don’t remember if he shook his head no, or actually said it, but he wasn’t. He stood up, we exchanged names, he gathered belongings, and happily followed me. Amongst his belongings was a strap-on flashlight, so I figured that I’d solved the mystery of that bike out front. I had.

The guy’s name was Bill. My brain wasn’t wired for meeting someone that evening – a great gift. On top of being very tired and hoping to be headed home soon, the only other expectation I had for this encounter was to watch this Bill guy fall for my girlfriend, Cathy, as every guy did. (Didn’t we all have friends like that?)  We talked for an hour or so and he didn’t pay any attention to Cathy. Weird. I talked a little about what I did, and he shared about what he was doing in DC, which should have impressed me, but since I was not in the “girl-meets-boy” mode, it slipped by.

About 10 PM, I decided to leave (much earlier than usual). I said my goodbyes to everyone and told Bill it had been nice meeting him. Bill offered to walk me to my car. The darkness outside and cool night air made me think about Bill’s long ride home on a bicycle. I happened to have a bike rack in my trunk. I mulled over the risk of driving him. “What were the chances of someone coming to the Officers Club on a bike in the first place, and then what were the chances of someone he meets actually having a bike rack in their car?” Offering him a ride just seemed like the right thing to do.

I opened my trunk to get the bike rack, and exposed an array of athletic equipment. In addition to bike stuff, I had a tennis racket, tennis balls, and softball equipment like bats, balls, gloves, etc. I looked like Miss America! In reality, I only really knew how to use a bike and the bike rack. I’d had about four tennis lessons at that point, and the softball equipment was in my car because my roommate and I were coaching a little girls’ softball team. My roommate was the real athlete. The little girls I was supposed to be coaching played better than I did. Bill’s eyes opened wide when he saw all that “stuff.” The evening was playing out like a movie script.

We secured the bike rack on the car and loaded the bike. I remember thinking “My dad would kill me if he knew I was doing this.” I needn’t have been concerned, Bill spent the entire ride to his apartment staring out my rear window. He was afraid his bike (his only means of transportation) would fall off my pitiful bumper.  Buick Opal bumpers were about 2.5 inches wide and I used a block of wood to provide the thickness needed for the rack. Very precarious!

We had a date the next day and the day after that. Bill quickly learned I couldn’t play tennis or softball, so we rode bikes. This Bill showed up at every event he said he was going to, including many boring Pentagon parties. He even made it to New England that Christmas of 1974 to meet my family. I couldn’t get rid of the guy  - thank goodness.

So what’s the moral of this story? Probably for the first time in my life, I had no expectations for a relationship. An accidental meeting on a day when I wasn’t focused on whether “this was THE one” allowed me to be myself and encouraged a friendship to grow first. Of course the other lesson is that I could never tell my girls that bars weren’t good places to meet men.

Category: Wife 4 comments »

4 Responses to “September 13th”

  1. Sue E.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Sue. I think I do remember you telling me before. It’s fun to “look” back on our pasts.
    You two were/are a very beautiful couple!

  2. Dixie

    I love the picture and the story of how you met. We just did that reminisce thing ourselves. Thanks for sharing such a special part of your lives.

  3. Emilee

    Sue! This is such a lovely post. So lovely in fact I have tears running down my face.
    I’m soo happy the two of you met!!! What a wonderful story…and beautiful picture!

  4. Debbie

    Wow! I am speechless! What a wonderful love story and you have such a gift in the way you shared it. Such a special couple!

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